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Feeling a little anxious about this quarantine/social-distancing? Us, too.

By a strange and scary turn of events, it’s looking like most (if not all) of us are going to be facing a lot of abrupt changes and uncertainty, including an increasing push for social distancing or self-isolating. While this is an unpleasant (and maybe dramatic) idea to some, it is so important to protect and care for one another, especially those who may be more vulnerable. This seems to be the most straightforward way to do it. It has been so encouraging to see people banding together to encourage those who can stay home, and help support those who cannot.

So, if we have to hunker down and stay put for the next couple of weeks, chances are, there will be challenges. I’ve had plenty of conversations with clients already who are trying to think proactively about how they can use their time and space, so I thought I could share some ideas here on how we can take care of ourselves, while keeping to ourselves!

Routine

For some, a break in routine can feel liberating and exciting. For others, it can be stressful and disorienting. Wherever you land, there’s a good chance that at some point your disrupted routine will start to weigh on you. If you find yourself eventually bored, stir crazy, or even anxious in anticipating the disruption, I’d recommend creating a routine. Set yourself a consistent time to wake up in the mornings and have some structure for your days with different times for different activities. It can be a loose structure, but consistency can be really helpful.

Move

When you can’t go to the gym or out for a run, getting exercise becomes more challenging. But even in quarantine, movement is important! If you have access to the outdoors, maybe take a walk. If not, there are TONS of YouTube videos of home workouts and yoga classes. Look around and see if you can find something that fits for you!

Create

You’ve got some free time- get creative! There is something about spending time making something, using that creative part of your brain, that can feel fulfilling and often productive. Here’s a rapid-fire list of ways to channel that creativity: paint, sketch, use modeling clay/play-doh, make music, sew, make slime, play with legos, journal, write a story/poetry/memoirs, cook, bake, color, google DIY crafts, make a fort, build a birdhouse. Don’t worry about quality here (unless you want to). Just create and see where it takes you!

Check your to-do list

You know that running list of things you want to get done, but just don’t have the time? You now have the time! Maybe take some time to think through things you’ve been putting off or haven’t been able to get to, and make space for them. Organizing, cleaning, trying that new recipe, reading that book, calling that friend, etc; get to it!

Read

Although reading is not for everyone, I highly recommend it. Check in with yourself and see what kind of content you’re feeling or that you think would be helpful, and find a good book! Here are some classics if you want to try, but are out of ideas: Tina Fey’s Bossypants. Brene Brown’s Braving the Wilderness. C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. Admiral McCraven’s Make Your Bed. Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. Michelle Obama’s Becoming. Bessel van der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score. Henri Nouwen’s Return of the Prodigal Son. Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime. There are a lot. You get it.

Play

Play board games, card games, charades, or ping-pong. Do a puzzle. Watch some shows. Do things that are fun and stimulating.

Stay connected

Call, text, FaceTime, group call your friends! Get together on Google hangouts. Have movie nights where you’re FaceTiming or texting while watching the same movie at the same time (the google chrome extension, Netflix Party, is great for this!). Play Words with Friends or something like that! There are lots and lots of ways to stay connected, and while none of them are as meaningful as an in-person interaction, they can still be helpful and valuable especially in this kind of scenario. Lean on each other.

Try something new

Try a new hobby, like cross-stitching, coin collecting, researching your ancestry or building boats in bottles (if you successfully build boats in bottles, please send pictures)! Try taking an online class like one of the Great Courses or SecondCity courses. Try learning a language or practicing one you’ve forgotten! This could be a great time to explore something new.

Containment and Mindfulness

If you are feeling consistently anxious about the Coronavirus or social distancing, try a containment exercise to help calm your mind. You can likely find several containment exercises with a quick search, but a simple one is to create (imaginary or real) a container, one that is strong enough to stay closed, that’s comfortable enough to keep whatever’s there inside, and accessible to you as needed. You visualize or make this safe, chest, or box (or whatever!), and practice putting your worry or anxieties inside it for safekeeping, reminding yourself that you will address those worries at some point, but that for now you’re doing what you can and it isn’t helpful to keep worrying about it. Keep reminding yourself with that self-talk as the worries surface, and keep putting them in the container.

You can give yourself some time each day if you’d like, to open the container and worry for a bit, but after a while, give yourself permission to put it away. This can be a helpful exercise for any kind of anxiety really, or any distressing topics that may come up while your mind is still. Note them, and then put them away to return to at a safer time (like with a friend or in counseling).

Reach out

There are plenty of counselors who are available and want to offer support during this weird and stressful time. Don’t hesitate to reach out and ask for a consult or an intake! It may be remote (i.e., over phone or video) but could still be a great step towards wellness.

Written by therapist Clair Miller

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